LHS student wins R.I. Philharmonic concerto, aria competition

LHS student wins R.I. Philharmonic concerto, aria competition

Matthew Ricard

LINCOLN – Matthew Ricard was 9 years old when his grandfather Norman Ricard, a United States Air Force veteran and member of the Air Force Band in the late 1950s, pulled out his old clarinet and began to play for his grandson.

The performance prompted the Lincoln High School senior to take lessons from his grandfather for two years before he enrolled in the Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School.

After one lesson with the music school’s Repertory Orchestra leader Vincent Mattera, he was invited to audition for and was accepted into one of the youth ensembles, eventually working his way up to the top-level Youth Symphony Orchestra.

In addition, Ricard is a member of the concert and jazz bands at LHS.

In January, Ricard was named the winner of the R.I. Philharmonic 2018-19 Concerto & Aria Competition, open to enrolled student musicians who play either piano, orchestral or band instruments, or sing.

He was chosen from a pool of five finalists.

“For six years, I have been inspired by the winners of the competition,” he said. “I love that now I have aspired to that level, and hope I am an inspiration. When I got the call that I had won the competition, my mouth dropped. All that I have worked for is coming together and happening … winning was one of the best feelings I ever had.”

Ricard said his teachers, including his grandfather, helped push him harder than he’d ever been pushed before. “They have brought me to where I am today, and I have been able to achieve so much more than I ever thought,” he said.

His family and friends often say Ricard is a younger version of his grandfather, who he said might have dropped an expletive in excitement over the news that Ricard won.

He intensely practiced his competition piece, Weber’s Second Clarinet Concerto, for a year in preparation. After hearing the piece, he said the level of difficulty and intricacy impressed him.

“I’m motivated by a lot of things, but the difficulty of a piece is what really makes me want to learn it,” he said. “I looked at Weber’s Concerto and actually said to myself: wow, this sounds really hard … it’s gotta be fun to play.”

When he’s not playing music, Ricard might be found repairing instruments. That pastime began, he said, when a professional repairman told him that his grandfather’s 1960 clarinet was no longer playable.

“I let that sit for a long while and then finally said, screw it, I’m fixing this,” he said. “It took me eight and a half hours of a rainy Saturday, but I did it. I like repairing instruments because being able to see something broken, then fixing it yourself, is not only satisfying but gives you experience that you can definitely use in the future.”

Speaking of the future, Ricard’s path after high school has been set. He will follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, enlisting in the U.S. Army for their band and jazz band. He plans to serve for a number of years before pursuing a career in music education. After that, he’s aiming to land a job as a professional musician.

“Music gives me a sense of success, of accomplishment, and of self-acknowledgement. The fact that I can call myself a musician is an accomplishment in and of itself, as it takes an incredible amount of work to get to where the pros are, and that’s exactly where I’m shooting for,” he said.

Ricard will perform Weber’s Second Clarinet Concerto in E flat major with the R.I. Philharmonic Youth Symphony at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 10, at Rhode Island College’s Roberts Hall in Providence.